The Northampton County District Attorney’s Office hosted its first gun buyback event, where participants were able to safely dispose of unused and unwanted firearms.
The event was held at the Lincoln Fire Station and the Hecktown Fire Company, both located in the Bethlehem area, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 1.
“This is a no questions asked gun buyback, in which we will receive any kind of rifles, shotguns and semi-automatic weapons,” District Attorney Terry Houck said.
A total of 312 guns were collected altogether in addition to boxes of ammunition, as stated in the issued Oct. 5. press release from the DA’s office. The gun buyback was financed through the office’s forfeiture funds, with zero impact on taxpayers’ pockets.
Those who wanted to surrender unwanted firearms were asked to put them in the trunk of their car to be taken by a police officer. At that point, the firearm was taken out of the trunk and transported inside.
In return, depending on the condition of the firearms, participants received gift cards to local grocery stores ranging between $50 and $200. This was determined by the police and the county detectives who helped run the event.
The press release said over $9,000 in gift cards were distributed on the day of the event.
“People have these guns in their homes because a loved one passes away that owned a gun or maybe a sibling or child leaves one behind,” Houck said. “This gives them an opportunity to turn them in, and hopefully the gift cards will be an incentive for them to turn these weapons in.”
Houck said gun violence is a problem everywhere, not just in the Northampton County area. He said the event isn’t a solution to gun violence, but rather part of the initiative to get unwanted and unused guns off the street and out of people’s homes.
The Bethlehem Police Department also worked with the DA’s Office to coordinate the gun buyback event and ensure the safety of those involved.
Bethlehem Police Capt. Nicholas Lechman said one of the big benefits of the gun buyback program is it gets firearms out of circulation – if they aren’t out to begin with, then they can’t be used for unfortunate or criminal purposes.
“We had a pretty decent turnout with somewhere between 110 and 120 firearms that were handed into us (at the Lincoln Station),” Lechman said. “It was significantly more than we were expecting, just because this was the first time that we had done something like this and we really weren’t sure what we were going to get.”
After seeing the amount of interest and success, Lechman said they might consider organizing a similar event in the future.
He said one of the components of the event he would like to improve upon is advertising it more in the future.
“We’ve definitely had a bit of an uptick recently with people being arrested with firearms at car or pedestrian stops,” Lechman said. “It’s obviously something that we’re trying to get ahead of.”
Located in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, BRG Firearms Training Academy LLC helps individuals who want to learn more about gun safety by offering training classes. They stress following the law when wanting to legally obtain and own a firearm.
Ron Flowers, a member of the academy, said any new or rightful gun owner needs to be properly trained.
“Every gun must be treated as though it is loaded at all times,” Flowers said. “Every class here begins with a briefing on safety, and every class ends with a briefing on safety. It’s emphasized throughout all of the training.”
Houck said the gun buyback event is a step toward improving gun safety and ensuring the legal use of firearms.
The press release said the collected weapons will be destroyed in the coming weeks.
“If we prevent just one shooting or death, whether it’s accidental, intentional or reckless, then the gun buyback will have been a major success,” Houck said.